An “entrepreneur” (a.k.a, startup founder) has been defined as someone who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40. There’s no question they are a special breed.
What inspires them to solve certain problems? How do they generate business when they first launch their products? What did they learn from the experience that they can share with other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Their tech founder insights and stories are inspiring, thought-provoking, and enlightening.
Here’s the full list to date. More to come.
“Administering employee benefits is fun and easy!”—said no business owner ever. The myriad types of insurance coverage available, from short- and long-term disability to medical, dental, and vision, plus flexible spending accounts, 401k plans, and more create incredible complexity, especially for the companies that are enrolled in self-administered employee benefits. Because of that complexity, mistakes are common. After seeing and working on this issue from both the carrier and corporate client sides, one enterprising entrepreneur set out to build a solution. Here’s the story of Joe Gagnon and his startup venture, SAB Co. Software.
Influencer marketing has become a big thing. Interest has increased 6X and direct spending has doubled since 2016. Back in 2017, when influencer marketing was still a fairly new practice, it required a lot of manual work and it was difficult to find the right influencers. Frustrated with the challenges, inefficiency, and lack of tools, one agency owner set out to build an influencer discovery platform that would automate manual processes, save time, and make it easier for marketing professionals to measure their influencer marketing results. Here’s the story of Pavel Beinia and his company, BuzzGuru.
Matching the demand of fans at sporting events with the capacity of concession stand vendors to serve up food and drinks has been a problem for more than a century. But while most sectors of the economy have been improved or disrupted by digital technology, stadium concessions have remained stuck in the early 1900s. The century-old system still works—sort of—but is less than ideal for everyone involved. For concession stands, it means lots of downtime punctuated by huge spikes in business during quarter or period breaks. For fans, it means standing in long lines and missing the action on the field, court, or rink. One Minneapolis athlete-turned-entrepreneur recognized the problems from both ends, and thought: there should be an app for that. Here’s the story of Mu Okonkwo and the company he founded, SitEat.
Study after study continues to prove the value of workplace diversity. Smart companies understand this, and have implemented diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in recruiting and hiring. Yet, Forbes reports that, “There is a wealth of research and evidence that suggests people with more ‘ethnic-sounding’ names experience bias during the hiring process and are less likely to be called back for roles they are qualified for compared to their counterparts.” After experiencing this type of discrimination, one enterprising woman decided to create a solution. Here’s the story of Abyan Nur and her company, Faceless Pro.
Wireless earbuds are incredibly popular, and for many good reasons. But they have drawbacks as well: they are uncomfortable, they fall out, and used improperly they can cause hearing damage. Frustrated with the discomfort and other drawbacks of earbuds, a Minneapolis-based engineer thought to herself: Why not combine the functionality of earbuds with the style of earrings, creating a product that would be fashionable as well as functional, while being safer and more comfortable than earbuds? So, in 2016, Rama Prasad founded Teqnizan to design and produce Bluetooth audio earrings, combing advanced sound technology with artisan design. Here’s her story.
Given that the competition for talent will be a long-term trend, how can enterprises most effectively compete for workers through the next decade? How can organizations make sure their workers feel valued, supported, appreciated, and listened to? That’s the challenge one entrepreneur set out to conquer when he transitioned from consulting to providing a technology solution to organizations struggling to get a handle on feedback, coaching, and performance management. Here’s the story of Stephen Moore and the company he founded, Culture Booster.
How do we enable the people who need data to make decisions within their area of expertise—finance, operations, sales, marketing, supply chain, whatever—but who aren’t experts in data analytics, to use data effectively? Davis Clark isn’t the first to try to answer the question, but he is approaching it from a unique perspective. Here’s his story, and the story of the company he founded to solve this conundrum, Futuremodel.
Bloggers, publishers, and ecommerce site owners constantly leave money on the table, and site visitors in the dark, about elements in their photographs because there’s no easy way to tag multiple items with multiple different links. That frustrated Mark Osuna Senn as he browsed online publications, so he decided to create a solution. Here’s the story of Mark, co-founder Pablo Alguindigue, and their company, Scopa Analytics.
Some marketing dashboard tools are easy to use but very limited in scope. Others are powerful and flexible, but frustratingly difficult to implement and use. While working as a software engineer at PayPal, Braden Ericson recognized this problem and decided to create a powerful yet simple reporting solution for SMB marketers as well as the agencies and consultants who work with them. Here’s the story of Braden and his company, Sparrow Charts.
Influencer marketing has taken off in the past few years. When looking for guidance on large or infrequent purchases, few people will click ads—but many will seek the advice of people they trust. Finding and reaching out to influencers individually was a tedious process though. Realizing there had to be a better way to approach this, three entrepreneurial influencer marketing professionals decided to build a platform that would simplify these efforts. Here’s the story of James Creech and the team behind Paladin Software.
Networking is hard, even in non-pandemic times. But what if there was a way to take a lot of the guesswork out of expanding your network, to consistently get connected with credible, experienced, helpful professionals? The founders of a Minneapolis-based networking platform asked the same question, and developed an answer. Here’s the story of Kris Eul and Kinetic.
Enterprises are drowning in data but parched for insights. Three entrepreneurial partners took the reins of a startup technology consultancy and began building an organization that would guide clients through the challenge, implementing software and processes to take control of their data and make better decisions in less time. Here’s the story behind eCapital Advisors from partner Matt Frederick.
Both B2B and B2C marketers are challenged to answer the same question: how can I know which marketing tactics are actually driving sales, so I can allocate my marketing budget more effectively? After living this challenge for years, two entrepreneurs set out to solve this problem. Here’s the story of Mike Lewis and Michael Weber, and the company they co-founded, Click360.
Most virtual event platforms offer limited (at best) scheduling functionality complex, multi-day / multi-session events. Before the pandemic, they were just not designed to do that. Recognizing an opportunity, one entrepreneur decided to create a highly customizable yet easy-to-use tool to enable planners to create event schedules that capitalized on the unique strengths of digital events. Here’s the story of Taylor McKnight and Emamo.
Virtual events are here to stay. Developed prior to the pandemic, the original purpose Stas Zaslavsky intended for his platform was to enhance the hybrid event experience: to enable organizers staging in-person events to extend that 3D, 360-degree experience to online attendees, rather than just a video stream. When COVID-19 forced live events online, the unique experience made it even more compelling. Here’s the story behind VII Events and its founder.
Two decades ago, technology didn’t even exist to help airports digitally manage ground transportation and airfield inspection. Lynn Richardson was a forward-thinking airport executive who decided to change that. Today, more than 110 airports rely on software from the company he started, GateKeeper Systems. Lynn is now turning the controls over to his son, Brian. Here’s their story.
Outsourcing software development can provide several significant benefits. Unfortunately, it offers just as many ways to get burned. Is there a better model? The “humans as a commodity” business model of outsourced software development too often causes high turnover rates, low-quality work, and lack of project commitment. Feeling underpaid doesn’t motivate anyone to do a great job. Recognizing the model was broken, one entrepreneur decided to take a radically different approach. Here’s the story of Lonnie McRorey and Framework Science.
Payman Taei recognized back in 2013 that interest in infographics was exploding, and his agency team needed a tool that would enable them to produce high-quality infographics, as well as other types of visual content, more easily and efficiently within a single interface that could also be used across all content formats. So, he set out to develop a visual design tool that would be flexible, simple to use, and affordable. Here’s the story of Visme.
B2B marketing teams are producing more content than ever. But that content has little value if sales teams can’t use it, or can’t find it when they need it. Orrin Broberg understood the key to making sales professionals more successful was to make it easy for them to access the exact content they needed, at the moment of truth–when they were face to face with prospects. That’s the core problem he and Scott Olson set out to solve. Here’s the story behind Modus.
Modern office buildings are incredibly complex. Yet much of the process of managing the “assembly” of these massive and complicated structures remains manual. The resulting inefficiency leads to most major commercial construction projects coming in late and over budget. A new breed of technology companies is setting out to change that. One of the most fascinating is Innovative Construction Technology (ICT), led by CEO Tim Duncan. Here’s their story.
From startups to the Fortune 100, meetings are a way of life for business professionals. Though vital for collaboration and project management, they are (too) often viewed as impediments to productivity. So how can we make them better?
Amber Christian studied this and realized that with the right combination of planning, approach, and technology, business meetings can be more productive for everyone involved. So she set out to create a tool to enable that. Here’s the story of Bella Scena.
Email marketing often produces a low return and annoys more prospects than it attracts. That’s because marketers usually set up messaging to target segments. But segments don’t buy; individuals do. Nicolas Wegener saw the obvious disconnect and realized AI could be used to target individual prospects much more effectively, even helping resorts and hotels identify their prospects most likely to take action soon. Here’s the story of SendSquared.
Differentiating professional services is hard. Take an IT services business for example. Digital product studios are generally not generically “better” than competitors, but a better choice for certain clients, under certain circumstances.
It takes asking questions like: Can they do the hard jobs? Do they have a consistent track record of success? Can they provide strategic guidance? That’s the kind of company Dustin set out to build. Here’s the story behind Modern Logic.
Traditionally , the commercial construction and design industry has used expensive, traditional marketing efforts to showcase their services and lines of products, and relied on old relationships to generate new business.
Here’s the story of what happened when Steve Pulley and two other relationship-driven individuals approached an industry that was lacking in the tools needed to efficiently explore, engage, and connect to make commercial construction and design dreams a reality, and decided to take on the challenge.
Quill Security Technology emerged in 2018 when Louis Werner and two co-founders decided to change this by taking a different approach to helping building owners and managers understand and address risks. Here’s their story.
So many aspects of children’s’ lives—band concerts, games, practices, school plays, the school day—are fixed in time. Moms want to show professional dedication, but there are times when they just flat out need to be somewhere else. Wouldn’t it be great if there were excellent jobs available, across professional fields, that recognized this? That recognition led Mary Kay Ziniewicz to start Bus Stop Mamas, an organization that connects mothers with great, and more importantly flexible, work opportunities.
Search engine optimization (SEO) software is a tough business segment. Not only must developers compete against dozens of other all-in-one suites and special-purpose SEO tools, but also continually adapt to the changing nature of search. One provider has established itself in the market by starting with simple yet highly capable tools then expanding their functionality. Here’s the story of Netpeak Software and founder Alex Wise.
All business owners want financial stability, growth in revenue, access to money when they need it, increasing profits, an increase in the value of the company, and, ultimately, a succession plan. What if a team with decades of experience in corporate turnarounds, acquisitions, M&A, and helping small and mid-sized businesses improve profitability could package their knowledge and expertise in a software tool to provide business owners with those kinds of insights? That’s how ProfitSee got started a decade ago. Here is the company’s story with founder Peter M. Vessenes.
Every entrepreneur struggles with the timing of their business launch. Tracy Fuller struggled more than most business founders, and with questions that went well beyond those above. Looking for a way to get back out into the world after the death of her son, losing her job, and getting divorced, she started a small balloon delivery service for special occasions. Here’s the inspiring story of Tracy’s journey from delivering balloons to kids’ parties to delivering strategic event planning and execution for tech giants and global brand clients.
Proposal writing is the bane of every consultant, sales rep, freelancer, and account manager who has to produce them. If only there was a way to create high-quality proposals quickly. That was the thought behind Better Proposals, a tool that enables users to develop beautiful, high-impact proposals in minutes. Here’s the story of how Adam Hempenstall and his team turned their vision of faster, easier proposals into an elegant yet practical tool.
Teachers focus on (this is going to be a shock, wait for it)…teaching. They strive to achieve the best learning outcomes for their students. But how can teachers be sure about the impact their programs are having with students? The science of measuring educational impact is different from the practice of teaching. Parsimony is a company formed to fix that problem. Here’s the story of Amanuel Medhanie and how he brought his vision to life.
Minneapolis-based tech consultancy Agosto (since acquired by Pythian) is today a Tier 1 Google Cloud Premier partner and cloud product development company that works with household-name clients like Groupon, HyVee, Quicken Loans, and Herman Miller. But back in 2008, it was a small IT services firm struggling to stand apart in a crowded market as well as weather the storm of the impending financial crisis and economic slowdown. Here’s the story of how Aric Bandy and his company made the transition from managed services to innovative solutions provider.
In the year 2000, the movie Unbreakable was released, starring Bruce Willis as a security guard who “survives a horrific train crash with no injuries, leading to his realization that he harbors superhuman abilities.” Mark Granovsky can probably relate. He founded G2Planet just two months after the dot-com bust of 2000. It focused on using mobile technology (seven years before the introduction of the iPhone) to manage live events (just 18 months before the 9/11 attacks decimated the travel industry). But through all of that and COVID, his company has thrived. Here’s his story.
When you think of hot software startups, it’s probably technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain, and virtual reality that come to mind. You probably don’t think about…direct mail. But one Minneapolis entrepreneur did, and he built a rapidly growing business with his vision. Michael McCarthy wondered why direct mail couldn’t be produced with the efficiency of email marketing automation tools. So he did something about it. Here’s the story behind Inkit.
If you need to share and collaborate on a few large files between people at two or three locations, any file-sharing service will work, like Google Drive, WeTransfer, or Dropbox. But if you work in a large organization that needs to keep tens of millions of files synchronized, across offices in different cities or even different countries, running different operating systems (Windows, Mac, various flavors of Unix)—you need something much more powerful. That’s the type of challenge Aba El Haddi has been working on his entire career. Here’s the EnduraData story.
While every business enterprise exists to fill a need, organizations differ in their secondary mission. Some focus on offering consumers bargain prices. Some strive to protect or improve the natural environment. Others seek to fulfill a social mission, such as hiring people who face barriers to employment. But rarely does one firm check all of those boxes—and sponsor an annual robot fashion show to boot. Check out the story of Amanda LaGrange and Tech Dump.
When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in Jobs’ garage, they didn’t envision selling phones or online music. Yet those are the company’s biggest revenue generators today. Great companies (and their founders) are adaptive. They begin with a vision, but are willing to evolve in response customer needs. John Sundberg founded Kinetic Data in 1997 as a service provider to companies running BMC Remedy. Today, the company’s Kinetic Platform is used enterprises to manage any kind of service requests.
Talk about adapting. After starting with a different mission, Salesfolks has evolved into a platform that matches sales professionals with companies that need contingent sales talent. The sophisticated matching platform is more like eHarmony for sales pros than it is like Uber, Lyft, or Fiverr. Uniquely, the company has identified 20 different types of sales professionals—inside sales, BDRs, SDRs, field sales reps, etc.—to help clients get exactly the type of talent they need. Here’s the story behind Salesfolks and it’s successful serial entrepreneur founder, Lief Larson.
Your best customers can also be your best marketers, customer support resources, and sources of input to your product roadmap—if you give them the right environment for engagement. That was the driving idea behind WorkOutLoud, the company founded by B2B software veterans Loring Kaveney and Eric Lopez to help developers of complex products turn their customers into their “most competitive advantage and best feature,” by strengthening relationships and fostering innovation. Here are Loring’s insights about inspiration, marketing, and entrepreneurial lessons learned.
Marketing and sales teams still struggle with personalization. 83% of marketers say creating personalized content is their biggest challenge, and they also face difficulties with gaining insights and securing internal resources. And when personalized marketing goes wrong, it can do more harm than good. That’s what Josh Fedie determined to fix when he launched SalesReach, a system that helps sales pros deliver the right content to prospects at the right time. Josh shares his insights on sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship here.
Data security software is a tough business segment, because products are generally only make the news when they fail. Here’s the story of one entrepreneur who’s out to change that. Daren Klum’s company, Secured2, is newsworthy not for any failures, but because it’s so confident in its protection that it’s the first company in the industry to offer a cyber security warranty: indemnification against losses caused by a data breach up to $5 million, backed by Lloyd’s of London.
Many of today’s entrepreneurs got their start in the working world as hourly employees in the service industry. This entrepreneur used that experience to launch a business that’s improving operations for big companies by addressing common frustrations of their front-line, hourly workers.
Atif Siddiqi shares his experiences, guidance, and lessons learned at his company / app, Branch, the only mobile-first technology that provides schedule and financial flexibility for hourly employees.
Scott Burns was just 24 years old when he founded GovDelivery, a software firm that helped government agencies communicate digitally with the public, in 2000—right on the cusp of the dot-com bust. After some challenging early years, he grew the company into a leader in its space, before it was sold to Vista Equity Partners for $153 million in late 2016. The next year, he and marketing leader Chip House founded Structural, which develops employee success management software. Here are Scott’s insights.